Five Reasons Why Decision Makers Don’t

I’m rather impatient with people who can’t or won’t make decisions. Here are five reasons for failing to make decisions. This is not an exhaustive list – there are more.

Five reasons people fail to make decisions:

  1. Decision maker wants more data
  2. Decision maker is scared of the outcome
  3. Decision maker is unclear they are the decision maker
  4. Nominal decision maker has to escalate the decision
  5. Decision maker is a committee

These causes of indecision can occur in combinations. For example, a decision maker that is scared of the outcome so asks for more data that might make them feel safer, or just to let time pass.

Of course the worst would have all of the causes in play at the same time. Something like … the decision maker is scared of the outcome, so feigns ignorance of their responsibility as decision maker, and escalates the decision, to a committee, that asks for more data. Don’t laugh. I’ve worked in bureaucracies. I’ve seen it happen.

2 thoughts on “Five Reasons Why Decision Makers Don’t

  1. Yeah. We see this problem a lot, particularly point 5. Often a giant resource and time-hungry machine called a “Workshop” is created and kicked into gear. Workshops aren’t always bad, but when they are a substitute fo accepting the responsibility for making a decision, they are evil. An extension of point 3, maybe is a reluctance to “step up to the plate” and take some ownership rather than wait to be spoon-fed. A solid Agile approach will accept failure and discover it early, so often (almost) any decision will be better than none.

  2. One to add to your list: “Decision maker has a political stake in maintaining the status quo.”

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